Holiday Booze Gift Guide: How to select liquor

From the December 6, 2012 edition

If you’re looking for a bottle of booze to gift there are plenty of quality options outside the well-known, mass-produced products. Gifts should be something special and show you put in a little more effort than just swinging by the liquor store on Christmas Eve. Attempt to find something a little more refined or rare and you’ll be on the nice list for years to come.

Throwing a party? Bringing something to share at a party? You want something good, but not too good. You’re friends are cool and all, but you’re not going to break the bank (i.e more than $30 a bottle) so they can get smashed.


Bourbon is the ideal liquor during the holiday season because it’s the ultimate belly-warmer. Whether gifting a bottle or supplying the drinks for the party, bourbon is a can’t-go-wrong choice.

Gifting bourbon is fairly simple. Small batch bourbons from Kentucky are ideal and always welcome. Quality bourbon is made outside the Bluegrass state, but it’s best to go with the originators.

If you’re shopping for a party, the key is finding something not too expensive because it’s going to be shared with guests and, let’s face it, most likely mixed with Diet Coke. Sigh. But don’t just buy the cheapest rot gut on the market because a few guests will want something neat worthy.

For gifting: Blanton’s Original Single Barrel

For partying: Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon


I guess it’s the herbs and botanicals in gin that makes it feel appropriate for the season, but it’s perfectly drinkable year round.

If you’re buying for the gin drinker, it’s best to know if they prefer the floral or dry variety. Floral gins boast bigger juniper, fennel and coriander flavors, dry gins tend to be more subtle. If you’re unsure — or just want to gift something impressive and outside the box — Ransom’s Old Tom Gin is ideal. The barrel-aged gin produces top-notch cocktails and is just as enjoyable over ice.

Buying a party gin that’ll be both impressive and crowd-pleasing means finding a balance of flavors. Wisconsin’s Death’s Door distillery uses the simplest of recipes — only juniper berries, coriander and fennel — to produce a gin that’s perfect for a boldly flavored cocktail or a simple dry martini.

For gifting: Ransom Old Tom Gin

For partying: Death Door Gin


Vodka is great for a party because it can be the base for any number of cocktails, but can be gifted as well.

When gifting a vodka, instinct may lead you to believe that higher the price, better the vodka, but don’t fall for the marketing b.s. Dancing Tree, a craft distillery out of Athens offers two vodkas — grain-distilled and grape-distilled — that will impress any aficionado.

Party vodka could be whatever is cheapest, but c’mon you’re better than that. Basically you just want something smooth, and Tito’s Handmade Vodka out of Austin is just that. And it’s value-priced, considering it’s an award-winning hooch.

For gifting: Dancing Tree Vodka

For partying: Tito’s Handmade Vodka